Friday, January 16, 2015

Plickers as student activation technique

I tried Plickers for my latest virus lecture and I like it fine. It is like clickers without the need for extra hardware - a smartphone and an internet connected laptop is all you need.

You print a set of scannable cards and ask multiple choice questions. The students hold up the cards in one of four orientations and you scan it with your phone. The answers are tallied as a histogram and if you want you can keep track of individual answers.

  • Great activation technique, students pay attention and stay focused.
  • Free and easy to set up and use. Easy to control from the app without having to stay by the laptop.
  • Easy to train student to use.
  • Easy to get feedback.
  • A good alternative to powerpoint if you still want to show something on the screen.
  • Can also be used for quizzes by using personalized cards.
  • I've been told it is possible to use multiple devices to scan cards. I haven't tried it yet, but if it works that would make things much easier.

  • It's a hassle to scan all the cards. Especially if the students huddle in the back of the room like they always do. Consider having an assistant scan the cards for you.
  • You run the risk of punctuating your lecture with downtime while you scan the cards. Make sure you don't loose the thread. Practice.
  • The app lack some functions that should be pretty obvious, like the ability to rearrange the order of questions and an easy way to download the report histograms in bulk.

    Tips and tricks
  • Make your first question for a new group "Can you figure out how to use the cards - the right answer is B or D". By the time I had walked the room to scan the cards all got it right. No further introduction of the system needed.
  • Wait at least a minut after displaying each question before you scan the cards. During that time I gave the background and led up to the question itself. While I scanned the cards I expanded on the subject, but without adding more vital information.
  • After each question, leave the answers on the screen and go through the alternatives in detail. Most of my questions were of the type ("spot the one wrong alternative") which meant that I had three true and one false bullet points to discuss.
  • Space the question so you spend time talking without fiddling with the app or having the students busy with the cards.
  • Use the last question as a summary. The question was "What confused you most this lecture" (could be expressed "What would you like to learn more about" if you're feeling less flippant). That gives you a handy way to get feedback, and ensures the students processes the main points of the lecture.
  • Collect and reuse the cards. You don't have to print them again for every lecture.

    Plickers is not for every lecture - you would have a hard time to use them in a lecture hall sized room - but if you know your forum and want to have a handy activation tool I definitely suggest you try it out.
  • 1 comment:

    1. Nice post, Erik!! I agree with your assessment of the pros and cons. I think that one of the biggest pros is that it doesn't require that students have laptops or smartphones. This is very important, imo.